Immigration changes are critical to West Michigan


Both the U.S. House and Senate are expected in the coming weeks to present versions of possible legislation crafting the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013, with a great deal of bipartisan support. That by itself might be reason for celebration, but as a border state now building a new bridge to Canada, Michigan has the opportunity to be heard in this process, and Gov. Rick Snyder’s initiatives should serve as example.

Grand Rapids Business Journal has reported often on the restrictive effects of current immigration policy, especially in regard to H1B visas used to fuel the Van Andel Institute’s pool of international researchers. The H1B visas are most specific to the STEM industries: science, technology, engineering and math. The current caps on the number of H1B visas has interrupted VAI research as visas expire or the limit is reached. The number of college graduates needed in STEM industries has been widely reported for many years. Former U.S. Rep. Vern Ehlers made a national point of the shortage of such graduates during his tenure and initiated stronger federal emphasis on STEM education programs.

Gov. Snyder has been clear in his support of new immigration policies since his first State of the State message. He reiterated his position last week at a forum sponsored by the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, saying, “People believe that immigrants are taking jobs from someone when, in fact, the evidence is clear that they create jobs. They are net job creators. They’re innovators, entrepreneurs, and they’re making jobs happen.”

In a Jan. 30 post to the state website, Snyder re-emphasized: “Achievingbipartisan immigration reform at the federal level would be a great example of relentless positive action by Washington. For too long, America has focused on differences and disagreements on immigration. I am pleased to see that the President and a bipartisan group of congressional leaders are moving forward on this issue, focusing on areas of agreement to reform U.S immigration policy in a comprehensive manner.”

It is far more difficult to “hear” U.S. Rep. Justin Amash on the issue; the son of Palestinian immigrants has not opined on the current work in the House. He posted on his website and Facebook page last July: “The United States has always welcomed individuals who legally seek to enter our country to work or become citizens, but Congress and the President must make every effort to secure our borders.”

The Business Journal encourages the sophomore legislator to sit at the Governor’s knee.

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